Tuesday, May 20, 2003

My (possibly redneck) Family Reunion

But first, the news updates:

Two finals down... three to go. Huzzah.

Actually, I am unusually hyper this evening. I just finished watching Interview with the Vampire fifteen minutes ago and found the ending hilariously funny for some reason. It was quite different from the book, which I finished reading a couple days ago, but still a good movie. (Especially with Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in it. *winkwink*)

My friend Kyle is coming for a visit on the 30th. We haven't seen each other for about a year. That'll be fun, especially with me poking fun at the "facial hair" he's supposedly sporting. Seriously though, he's one of my best friends.

Hmmm. Other than studying (haha. Oh wait, I actually *did* study for once) for finals, one paper about the book The Confessions of Nat Turner, one paper for the book Ceremony, one group presentation (the ten of us met at the Rockbottom Brewery. Usually study groups meet at Starbucks, but a few members of our group were tossing back vodka sunrises, screwdrivers, and beer. Myself, I simply had a sunrise. Then some cheap tacos and fries from Jack in the Box on the way home.), I've just been writing a new SxS oneshot ficcie (working title: "Ransom"), totally revamping my web page, and being newly addicted to eBay. To show the world what kind of rabid fangirl I am, I've bought a set containing Squall's Griever necklace, ring, and gunblade. Unfortunately not a real gunblade, because I'm simply a penniless college student.

My roadtrip for this summer is ON! *celebrates*

Now for the Feature Presentation:

On Saturday we put my grandfather "to rest." We went down in the sticks where we have relatives and had a small ceremony. The ceremony was almost as small as the cemetery; seriously, my family must occupy at least a fourth of it. But, true to our familial nature, the ceremony couldn't start until we had filled in gopher holes with dirt and whacked off overhanging oak tree branches with a chainsaw. With the foliage thusly tamed and the potential firewood loaded into a trailer, we could begin the actual burial process.

My uncle Jim, cousin Jamey (aka "Jazz" or "Jaz" or something), Mom and I read a few short poems. My sister, with her usual stubborness, had refused to take part in reading, quote, "religious crap." There was one emotional moment when my Aunt Dee's bottled water fell off the hood of my Uncle Butch's pickup truck with the bottom mysteriously convex instead of concave, but that Kodak moment was easily surpassed with the firing of my g-pa's cannon. (We had thought that the two he had recently and reluctantly sold had been the end of his miniturized-working-Civil-War-cannon-replicas, but I had found the third in a cardboard box in his old office a week or two before. With one-and-a-half boxes of blanks, of course. It was inevitable that some of the tons of ammo rolling around in his office would work with the cannon.) Three times the cannon was shot and, truly, tears came to the eyes of all present as that last cloud of sulfur engulfed us.

After burying the metal box ostensibly holding the ashes of my grandfather (I don't know if anyone bothered checking) with it's transparent shrink wrap marked "Safety Seal Please Remove" and covering his mortal remains with a mound of dirt (I think that mound was left to show the headstone delivery guy where to put the thing; I dunno, I never asked.), we all piled into our minivans (and pickup trucks, one pulling a trailer of the soon-to-be-firewood wood, and one not) and went to Butch's house for barbecue.

Well, we didn't eat BBQ right away. Us non-boonies residents all piled eagerly into two minivans to go see Butch's field of artichokes.

I had never seen an artichoke plant before, let alone an entire field. Now that I have I can assure you all who haven't had the wonderful opportunity to see artichokes in the process of growing that you haven't missed much. Just a bunch of green artichoke plants sprouting... artichokes. I soon tired of listening to the adults chatting about hybrid vegetables and went off to chase a kid (related to me in such a roundabout way that I don't know what his actual title is in relation to my sister and I). My relationship with Bryce (the kid) began with the innocent words "Hey, a ladybug!" which progressed into a parasite/host relationship within ten minutes. As we searched the artichokes for more ladybugs (reaching a grand total of two), I learned that he was seven, had petted "the real Bambi," and had a sister (approximately -3 months old I found out later). "Still in your mommy's tummy?" I hazarded, which was met with an affirmative answer.

When the relatives began piling into the cars again, Bryce said "I'm going with her." To my sister's unspeakable delight, he sat between the two of up in the back seat of our minivan while chattering nonstop. He told me a confusing anecdote about two identical black cats in his neighborhood, both creatively named "Midnight," and how he developed a method for him to tell them apart which either succeeded or not, I couldn't tell. Before returning to Butch's homestead, we detoured to visit another small cemetery more unkempt than the first. Sadly, I was distracted from examining the headstones (one with the single word "Dick" engraved, one marking a grave belonging to a "Mr" Something-or-other, and one with the death date as "1984" with the "4" picked out and replaced with a "1") by Bryce pretending to run into trees and such and tripping.

When we returned to Butch's I was given another seven-year-old shadow named Emily. Both roped me into playing a sophisticated game called "Kickback" in which we kicked a ball to each other. Then we played a gamed entitles "Pop-up" or something; I think by that time was getting a touch of heatstroke from running in the direct 2-billion degree sunlight for eight hours. I purposely lost whatever that PT drill was until the kids decided to take pity on poor unathletic me. We went to what used to be Bryce's home-- a mobile home a stone's throw away from the shaded patio where the adults were sipping Hard Lemonade and Snapples, asking adult permission first, of course. I got the grand tour of the mobile home (another environment new to me) and sat through a short showing of pictures of Bryce and "Bambi" before being hauled back out into the relentless heat. I dutifully watched and applauded as Bryce showed off a trick on his swingset before the three of us went for a pretend ride in a substantial school bus parked (permanently, I judged) only a few yards from the swings. The heat was even more stifling inside the bus, and I gingerly took a seat on a dusty bench seat, mentally noting to carefully brush off my black pants afterwards.

After the bus ride, we exited it into the (relatively) cooler air. Bryce then said something cute, endearing him to me in a way that could only be felt with the knowledge that I was leaving that afternoon and wouldn't see either Bryce or Emily for a few years: "I want you to be my sister. I'm going to call you 'Sister' today." While I was mentally "awww"ing, he and Emily clutched my hands and we walked back through the vacant home.

Before I finally stop typing tonight, I'll tell one more thing that could possibly further identify this branch of my family as "Redneck" or "Psycho." The remains of two old buildings were standing between us (on the mobile home porch). Bryce mentioned that there were "pirate" signs inside one of the ruins. Faithful readers should know of my long-time dream to ravage, pillage, and plunder for a vocation, so naturally the word "Pirate" piqued my interest. "Pirate signs?" I asked. He nodded. "I'll show you." Emily refused to follow us on the grounds that the buildings "smelled bad inside and had spiders." Logical reasons, though I wasn't planning on spelunking, just poking my head through the door. As we approached the larger of the two buildings, he told me to plug my nose. I pinched it shut, thankful that he was a mature enough first-grader that the funny sounds of agreement didn't make him erupt into peals of laughter. He led me between the ruins and I peered through the doorway to where he pointed. He had been partially right; skulls and crossbones were present. Painted on large metal drums.

Who the hell keeps barrels of hazardous waste on their property in falling apart 18th century buildings?

Sadly, my family.

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